According to the Orlando Sentinel, Scott Brancheau has hired a team of wrongful death attorneys and will likely sue SeaWorld, holding them responsible for the drowning death by a killer whale of his late wife, Dawn Brancheau.
In February, when the killer whale “Tilicum” got hold of the trainer (the current belief is that the trainer’s pony tail drifted into the whale’s mouth as she worked with him from the pool’s ledge, which he then grabbed, pulling her into the water) the news shocked us all – for decades the amusement park industry has been lucky – most attacks on trainers are not fatal and seldom occur in front of the public. Overwhelmed by grief and no doubt feeling shell-shocked, the family was at first supportive of SeaWorld, and at a time of loss few people want to take on a lawsuit. And suing a corporation with as much influence and with as deep pockets as SeaWorld would be a herculean task.
But now, given the ruling by the government’s department of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) charging SeaWorld with serious and willful violations, the distraught family may have been handed the stone they need to take on SeaWorld in this matter. OSHA is the agency that makes sure that workers everywhere have optimum working conditions – they are the reason that you can go to work and know that there are working fire escapes, sprinkler systems, the air is clean, and you are provided with safe tools and protective gear if your job requires them. Whale trainers deserve the same benefits, and it is high time that the amusement parks are forced to provide safe conditions – and no longer be able to get away with statements such as ‘working with whales is inherently dangerous’. Latent danger lurks in many occupations, but safety precautions are always required, think about this next time you see a race car or hydroplane driver walk away from a horrifying wreck.
The amusement parks will argue that you can’t take humane care of whales in captivity without close contact, particularly the lonely and isolated ones such as “Lolita”, living in the Miami Seaquarium. This is probably true.
But then again, whales don’t belong in small tanks isolated from their families, there is nothing humane about that.